Canada slaughter capacity up

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 21, 2005
by WLJ
Canada's cattle and beef industry has followed through with plans to increase the nation’s overall beef slaughter capacity, and expansion is expected to continue as the U.S. border remains closed to live Canadian cattle.
Prior to Canada's initial BSE confirmation in May 2003, the country's total slaughter capacity was at 72,000 per week, although the plants were actually processing closer to 65,000-69,000 each week. Currently, total weekly processing capacity around 84,000 head per week.
Cliff Munroe, chief of Alberta Agriculture's regulatory services branch, said the province's two largest facilities, Lakeside Packers and Cargill Foods, have expanded their kills significantly, and that further growth of those packers is expected.
In addition, a number of smaller projects are in the works, including Rancher's Beef, which is already slaughtering cattle at Sunterra's lamb/veal facility in Innisfail. Construction is also under way on an 800-head-per-day facility north of Calgary. Another group is working to set up an 800-head/day plant west of Edmonton.
Several other projects are planned across the Prairies and in eastern Canada sources said.
If the U.S. injunction against reopening the border to Canadian live cattle is not overturned, Munroe said it is likely Canada, specifically Alberta, would put even more emphasis on increasing the domestic slaughter capacity, as the country works to divorce itself from its dependency on U.S. processors.
"If you add up all the hopes and prayers out there, capacity could increase to 120,000," said John Masswohl, director of international relations with the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.
Realistically speaking, he thought slaughter capacity would increase to 95,000 per week heading into 2006.
Masswohl thought Canadian oversupply was roughly around 500-550,000 head of cattle, of which 300,000 to 350,000 were older animals. If the younger animals can't be moved to the U.S., it could take until 2007 to get through the backlog, according to Masswohl.
Even if the U.S. border does eventually open, it will only be for those animals under 30 months of age. As a result, most of the current projects in the works are for dealing with those animals over 30 months of age.
Canada has too many live cattle and not enough slaughter capacity, said Cam Daniels, vice-president of the Canada Beef Export Federation. He agreed that new plants and increased slaughter capacity were the best solution, but didn’t give a timetable or the extent of expansion that would be needed to balance out cattle supplies and packing capacity. — WLJ